In geology, any igneous rock dominated by the silicates pyroxene, amphibole, olivine, and mica. These minerals are high in magnesium and ferrous iron, and their presence gives mafic rock its characteristic dark colour. It is usually contrasted with felsic rock. Common mafic rocks include basalt and gabbro.
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Division of igneous rocks on the basis of their silicate mineral content, these minerals usually being the most abundant in such rocks. Rocks are described as felsic, intermediate, mafic, and ultramafic, in order of decreasing silica content, and, in general, the gradation from felsic to mafic corresponds to an increase in colour (i.e., light to dark). Due to the erroneous belief that silica present in rock magmas occurred in the form of silicic acid, high- and low-silica rocks were once known as acid and basic rocks, respectively.
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In terms of chemistry, mafic rocks are on the other side of the rock spectrum from the felsic rocks. The term roughly corresponds to the older basic rock class.
Mafic lava, before cooling, has a low viscosity, in comparison to felsic lava, due to the lower silica content in mafic magma. Water and other volatiles can more easily and gradually escape from mafic lava, so eruptions of volcanoes made of mafic lavas are less explosively violent than felsic lava eruptions. Most mafic lava volcanoes are oceanic volcanoes, like Hawaii.
|Rock Texture||Name of Mafic Rock|
|Coarse grained (phaneritic)||Gabbro|
|Coarse grained and porphyritic||Porphyritic gabbro|
|Fine grained (aphanitic)||Basalt|
|Fine grained and porphyritic||Porphyritic basalt|
|Pyroclastic||Basalt tuff or breccia|
|Many small vesicles||Scoria|
|Glassy||Tachylyte, sideromelane, palagonite|